Albert Einstein said, "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler."
Leonardo Da Vinci said, "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."
Jack Welch said, “Insecure managers create complexity...People must have the self-confidence to be clear and precise… (but)you can’t believe how hard it is for people to be simple, how much they fear being simple. They worry that if they’re simple, people will think they’re simple-minded. In reality, of course…clear, tough-minded people are the most simple.”
Ram Charan and Larry Bossidy said, “Along with having clear goals, you should strive for simplicity in general…leaders who execute…speak simply and directly. They talk plainly and forthrightly about what’s on their minds (and) know how to simplify things so that others can understand them, evaluate them, act on them, so that what they say becomes common sense.”
But, of course, the world is awash with the following kind of talk: “We harness deep industry process and technology expertise and unrivaled large-scale, complex change capabilities. We seamlessly integrate consulting and outsourcing capabilities across the full cycle of business transformation. We leverage our proprietary assets and global delivery network for quality, speed, an lower costs.” (Accenture Annual Report discussing their “differentiation” in the marketplace) Say that again?!
And, of course, it's not just business that writes that way. You may remember William Jefferson Clinton and his testimony to an attorney, regarding a certain Lewinsky woman:
Attorney: “…the statement (made by your counsel) that there was ‘no sex of any kind in any manner, shape, or form with President Clinton’ was an utterly false statement. Is that correct?”
President Clinton: “It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is. If the – if he – if ‘is’ means ‘is and never has been and is not’ – that is one thing. If it means there is none, that was a completely true statement.” (Grand Jury investigation)
Well, maybe we can forgive Billy Boy because during his administration he also sent an executive memorandum to all branches of government telling them they had to write with "Plain Language."
And, what is "Plain Language." It is simple, clear, concise and coherent writing. It uses "you" and other pronouns, it prefers active voice, it uses strong action verbs, and it prefers short words, short sentences and short paragraphs. In other words, it is simple! It is tough-minded. It is direct. And in its simplicity it is sophisticated. It doesn't depend on what the meaning of "is" is!